Just like many days, I start my day at Starbucks getting a cup of coffee and checking emails. Yesterday, while in Starbucks trying to warm up, I was speaking on the phone with a client about the current condo market. A very nice lady sitting next to me had heard a few things I was saying to my client and when I got off my phone she had many questions for me. No matter where you go, people always seem to like to talk real estate! This person, who I will call Sue, had many questions but the one she seemed to have the most interest in where my thoughts on the new Cosmopolitan. I did start the conversation with her explaining that I have discussed this project many times here on my blog, and it has not always been favorable. She explained to me that she was one of buyers that have now pushed the project to 88% sold. But she was insistent that I give her my honest opinion…so I did! I did start the conversation saying it was a nice building that I believe residents will enjoy for sometime. She asked me about the pricing and I explained to her my take on the pricing. When I explained that I thought it was fairly overpriced she agreed with me and then went on to explain why she bought. The current unit she was in had it’s views blocked by a new building and she wanted something with a view. She said she had been waiting for a view unit to come on the market but got tired of waiting. This is why she said she decided to pay a higher price than she felt comfortable with. I believe this is the exact situation that most of the Cosmopolitan buyers ran into. They wanted something in a nicer building and nothing was coming on the market! They did not have many options and decided to pay a higher price instead of waiting. After discussing the pricing of the building, Sue then asked me what I thought about the building. Being a future owner, I wanted to be somewhat polite and gave her somewhat of a sugar coated answer. She saw right through my answers, looked me in the eyes and said “What do you really think?” So, I told her!
I told her that early on in the design process the developer had called on many of the top condo agents to give some feedback on the project and to make suggestions as to what they thought our clients would like, which at the time I thought was a smart thing to do. There were some very good suggestions that agents made, most were not implemented. For example, large decks. This is something all condo buyers would like to have. The final build out is nearing the end and one thing I will say, VERY small decks for a majority of the owners! Other simple things were suggested. One of my suggestions, which I had seen in buildings in Seattle and Denver, was a small area on the Mezzanine level where owners could take their dogs for a walk, and do their business. This so that owners don’t have to go down to street level and worry about safety later at night. Again, it didn’t happen. Other agents had suggested a better variety of cabinetry. While Pedini is nice, it’s not for everyone. So instead of variety, the future owners were offered super contemporary with a choice of light, medium and dark! This was something Sue said she struggled with. To me, it did not seem that the developers listened to the agents much. While I was hoping for something very special, to me it is just like The Metropolitan, just a little taller. Now don’t get me wrong, I love The Metropolitan! In fact, architecturally, I like the exterior look of The Metropolitan much more. But for the prices being paid, I was hoping for more. For something pretty special. For these $800 to $1200 a square foot prices, I was hoping for a building with more amenities like those in the Insignia in Seattle, Lumina in San Francisco , Bellevue Towers in Bellevue,WA. Or Spire in Denver. ( http://www.insigniabybosa.com/#/tour , http://luminasf.com/amenities/ ,
http://bellevuetowers.com/#building , http://www.spiredenver.com/amenities/ )
Now, some of these nice amenities come with a price, higher HOA fees. Part of the problem with most of our buildings is that we do not build high enough. While 28 stories at The Cosmopolitan is a good start, it is still not enough to spread the cost of amenities like those at the above mentioned buildings. When you have a building that is closer to 40 stories, it is much easier to spread the cost among more owners. When I toured Spire in Denver, CO (41 stories), I was blown away by the fantastic amenities…and then I was really blown away when I saw the owners were paying about half of what typical owners in Portland’s nicer buildings were paying for their HOA fees. While there are many people that are opposed to building higher, it is what makes the most sense if people want nicer amenities and also keeping their monthly cost lower. Imagine if you will, in the location of the current Centennial Mills, a beautiful waterfront condo building much like that of Bellevue towers. Two 40 story towers that offer the most amazing views, and to be right on the river! Sit on your large deck and take in views of Mt. Hood and the Willamette River. Between the two towers, you have a spacious, park like mezzanine level where you sit by an outdoor fire sipping wine and watching ships pass by! In the summer months, you join your neighbors at the outdoor theatre to watch movies. Perhaps you are a little more active and wish to go swim laps in the indoor pool and then relax afterward in the steam room or sauna.
Ok, back to reality! Big, usable decks would have been a good start!
Brad Golik is a condominium specialist with Pearl District Properties. If you would like to tour some of Portland’s luxury condominium buildings, call Brad at 503-896-8856 or visit http://www.LuxuryCondosofPortland.com